brain physiology, choice, ego, God, Iran, psychology, sin, theology
Forgive me if this comes out somewhat disjointed. But in order to figure this out I need to set it down. It’s one of those living with the questions type things, and I don’t really expect an answer to be spit out so much as I want to finger the parameters of question.
You see, I don’t believe in Satan. I cannot reconcile God to be “all knowing” and the “perfect” creator, and then that he creates a creature who ends up flawed. Oops, Satan chose to wrestle power from God? If he knows God better than I or we, how could that be? Aren’t we told by the religious righties that all will be “understood” one day when we croak and meet God face to face? Well Satan supposedly met God face to face and opted for his own ego driven power base. Makes no sense to me.
So I see Satan as but a metaphor for our egos, that thing which makes us realize that I am I and not you or we. It has many drawbacks as we know. One is that it seems to think its survival is paramount to all other living things. It will go to extraordinary lengths to preserve itself, even including ending another live to preserve itself. We sometimes protect that right, and sometimes we do the anomalous thing of extinguishing that life. In other words, sometimes it’s okay and sometimes not, and it’s best to understand quite clearly the difference.
Sin, in my humblest of opinions came into the world when the first of our barely human acting ancestors denied food or shelter to another of his kind in the hopes of enhancing his own survival. That’s how I see it. We placed ourselves first.
Now this is where it gets sticky to me. On the one hand we have, as all life on this planet does, a strong, sometimes overpowering desire to survive. And survive we do, sometimes against incredible odds. Yet on the other hand, we also will offer our lives for family and friends, compatriots, and country. One cannot lay this down merely to helping the species or one’s offspring survive, since sometimes clearly that is not at risk. It is sometimes just inexplicable, and fully altruistic.
Yet, it seems nearly undeniable that we always act in our own self interest. Think about that. It may seem strange, since we all can vision a whole lot of crazy behaviors that don’t seem objectively to be directed toward self interest. But I think they still are.
The bank robber seems hell bent on personal destruction. The consequences of being caught are grim, at least they seem that way to us. The same goes for the drug addict, the alcoholic, and a whole host of “self-destructive” behaviors we can name. But clearly, at the moment of decision, they seemed to be the best solution to whatever problem the person faced. All other choices seemed “less good.”
So we have three things here. First we introduce sin (bad behavior vis a vis the admonition to “do unto others”), as a means to protect our survival. Second, we have undeniable altruistic behaviors that clearly can’t aid survival, and third we are driven always to make a constant choice as to each action or inaction we take–is this the best alternative for me at this moment in time?
There is a war going on inside that I suspect we are often unaware of. We are making thousands of choices per day. Most we do with little or no thought, but we do the action, or don’t do the action based on this largely unrealized assumption that we have weighed alternatives and judged this choice the best.
That much of what we do appears thoughtless to others is somehow our failure to really empathize. We engage in this process yet we don’t recognize it in others, perhaps because we judge their choices to be “wrong” and alien to our own thinking.
Worse, we then conclude that the “other” opinion or choice is not just wrong, but that the person who makes that choice KNOWS that it is wrong and chooses it anyway. For purposes of greed, sociopathy, or any other ignoble reason, the “other” is deliberately making the “wrong” choice. Somehow we internalize it even worse, that they are doing this deliberately to make us angry, to stick it to us.
Yet in the end, the real problem as was said in “Cool Hand Luke,” is ” failure to communicate.” A failure to communicate empathically. I’m unable to see the processes by which you came to decision A, in large part because you are yourself unaware of how you got there. You are sure, just as the sun shines that you are right. I am just as sure that you are not. And I am just as unaware of how I got to where I am. But I’m here now, and God damn it, I am right, and you are wrong.
You see where we get? We end with a fist shaking at each other, and all because we can’t puncture that veil of how you decided that this was the best choice. And more to the point, we aren’t much inclined to try. We are right after all, and you aren’t.
I guess I’m convinced that we need to spend a lot less on armaments and plasma screens, and I lot more on brain physiology and psychology. Maybe if we could understand how we decide better, we could understand each other better.
Iran is at a strange place. Much like China was a few years back. There is a huge disconnect between a significant part of the population. China just cracked down. Will Iran? Probably. Somehow they see it as the right choice, and in their collective self-interest. I’d like to understand, but I can’t.